This resolution informs me that "in the opinion of the General Assembly of Virginia, the appointment of General R. E. Lee to the command of all the armies of the Confederate States would promote their efficiency and operate powerfully to reanimate the spirits of the armies, as well as of the people of the several States, and to inspire increased confidence in the final success of our cause."
In your communication you Kindly assured me that "The General Assembly, with sincere confidence in my patriotic devotion to the welfare of the country, desire in this critical period of our affairs by such suggestions as occur to them, and by the dedication, if need be, of the entire resources of the Commonwealth to the common cause, to strengthen my hands and to give succeed to our struggle for liberty and independence."
This assurance is to me a source of the highest gratification, and, while conveying to you my thanks for the expression of the confidence of the General Assembly in my sincere devotion to our country and its sacred cause, I must beg permission, in return, to bear witness to the uncalculating, unhesitating spirit with which Virginia has, from the moment when she first the sword, consecrated the blood of her children and all her material resources to the achievement of the object of our struggle.
The opinion expressed by the General Assembly in regard to General Lee has my full concurrence. Virginia cannot have a higher regard for him or greater confidence in his character and ability than is entertained by me. When General Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia he was in command of all the armies of the Confederate States by my order of assignment. He continued in this general command as well as in the immediate command of the Army of Northern Virginia as long as I could resist his opinion that it was necessary for him to be relieved from one of these two duties. Ready as he has ever shown himself to be to perform any service that I desire him to render to his country, he left it for me to choose between his withdrawal from the command of the army in the field and relieve him of the general command of all armies of the Confederate States.
It was only when satisfied of this necessity that I came to the conclusion to relieve him from the general command, believing that the safely of the capital and the success of our cause depended in a great measure in then retaining him in the command in the field of the Army of Northern Virginia.
On several subsequent occasions the desire on my part to enlarge the sphere of General Lee's usefulness has led to renewed consideration of the subject, and he has always expressed his inability to assume command of other armies than those now confined in him, unless relieved of the immediate command in the field of that now opposed to General Grant.
In conclusion, I assure the General Assembly that whenever it shall be found practicable by General Lee to assume the command of all the command of all the armies of the Confederate States, without withdrawing from the direct command of the Army of Northern Virginia I will deem it primitive of public interests to place him in such command, and will be happy to know that by so doing I am responding to their expressed desire.
It will afford me great pleasure to see you, gentleman, as proposed in your letter, whenever it may be convenient for you to visit me.
I am, very respectfully and truly, yours,